Jail vs. Rehab For Addicts
Millions of drug addicts are jailed every year in the U.S. In many of these cases, they are sentenced to jail time because of minor crimes such as possession or a third strike. Rehab vs. jail is an old debate, but one that is shifting. While the old way has been to jail addicts because they have committed crimes, advocates for addicts are changing attitudes. Jail is not a valid form of rehab and it should stop being used as such. Addicts do not come out of jail cured simply because access to drugs was restricted or cut off; it’s time to start getting addicts the help they truly need.
Can Jail Be Rehab?
Philosophies of addiction treatment have long been punitive. Even with addicts who are not in trouble with the law, mainstream addiction care has often used punishment and tough love as a way to treat patients. This idea comes from a deep-seated belief that addiction is a moral failure and a personal weakness; that addicts have done something wrong because of an internal flaw and punishment is the way to correct it. This attitude is old and it is changing, but it still largely prevalent.
Because of this dated attitude, many addicts are sentenced to jail time instead of treatment in a rehab facility. Drug rehabilitation statistics refute this practice. Jail might work as effective rehab for a handful of addicts, but for most it simply doesn’t help. When a drug addict leaves prison, he is likely to start using again. Unless a jail or prison has a dedicated drug addiction treatment program, addicts will not be well served by spending time there.
Addicts Need Effective Treatment
No one would suggest that there should be no consequences for drug crimes, but jail time is not the most effective way to punish and rehabilitate addicts. Those convicted of minor and non-violent crimes could be sentenced to time spent in a treatment facility instead of prison. This would allow addicts to get the help they desperately need and would help them transform back to productive members of society who will be unlikely to break laws again.
One of the pros of recreational marijuana legalization that has recently been seen in Colorado and Washington is fewer drug users going to jail for minor crimes. There are a lot of real downsides to legalizing this drug, including possibly increased addiction rates, but if it means clearing prisons of non-violent drug offenders, it would be one positive outcome.
The debate over rehab vs. jail is one that should be officially closed. We know that prison time does not treat addicts and that no one is served well by jails overcrowded with minor offenders. Everyone would benefit, taxpayers and drug addicts alike, if we could send non-violent drug offenders to facilities for effective treatment.
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